GORDON WHITE: Final Inning: All Stars Bid Farewell to Yankee Stadium
Stars fell on old Comiskey Park in Chicago 75 years ago today. They were not Sirius, Betelgeuse, Arcturus, Rigel et al. Some of the brightest of these stars were called Frankie Frisch, Pepper Martin, Bill Terry, Lou Gehrig, Lefty Grove, Lefty Gomez, Charlie Gehringer and Bill Dickey.
But the very brightest of all those stars in the former White Sox ball yard that day was one whose overpowering dominance of that galaxy was said to be fading. Nonsense! For it was The Bambino -- George Herman (Babe) Ruth -- who did his usual thing and slammed the game-winning two-run home run that gave the American League a 4-2 triumph over the National League in the first Major League Baseball All-Star game, July 6, 1933.
The following summer, Ruth became one of the victims as "King" Carl Hubbell, the New York Giants southpaw, turned in the most memorable achievement in any of the 78 All-Star games played thus far. And he did it on his own turf as this 1934 All-Star game was played in the Polo Grounds, the Giants' oddly shaped baseball arena under Coogan's Bluff in upper Manhattan.
The AL opened against the mighty left hander when the Detroit Tigers' Gehringer singled and the Washington Senators' Heinie Manush walked. Coming up were the Yankees' Ruth and Gehrig, followed by Jimmy Foxx of the Philadelphia Athletics. These were three of the greatest sluggers in the history of the game.
Hubbell, whose primary pitch was a screwball that went opposite the direction of a normal curve ball and was always dipping low under heavy swinging bats when he was on target, got Ruth looking at a third strike. Then he struck out Gehrig and Foxx swinging for an amazing trifecta.
Hubbell put a big red cherry on the top of that sweet first inning when he continued his fantastic pitching against super sluggers by striking out Al Simmons of the Chicago White Sox and Joe Cronin, then the Senators' shortstop, to start the second inning.
Never before or since in an All-Star game or in a regular season MLB game, has a pitcher fanned five such threatening sluggers in a row.
Hubbell was replaced after pitching three shutout innings and the AL, without a home run, went on to score six runs in the fifth inning and beat the NL, 9-7. But long after most fans have forgotten the final score, everyone has remembered King Carl's five-man strikeout job.
That was the first of seven Midsummer Classics to be staged in the Big Apple. The eighth New York City MLB All-Star game will be held in nine days at Yankee Stadium as a salute to the final season for "The House That Ruth Built". A new Yankee Stadium will be opened in the Bronx next season within a few yards of the original.
Each of those seven earlier NYC All-Star games was played in one of four arenas in the Big Apple -- Polo Grounds in 1934 and 1942, Yankee Stadium in 1939, 1960 and 1977, Ebbets Field in 1949 and Shea Stadium in 1964. Chicago, using three Stadiums, has also held the All-Star game seven times.
In 1939 when Yankee Stadium hosted the All-Star game it was the year the mighty Bronx Bombers would set a MLB record by winning the World Series for the fourth consecutive year. The AL team, managed by the Yankee skipper, Joe McCarthy, was loaded with 10 Yankee players---Frank Crosetti at shortstop, Bill Dickey at catcher, Joe DiMaggio and George Selkirk in the outfield, Lou Gehrig at first, Joe Gordon at second and Red Rolfe at third plus Lefty Gomez, Red Ruffing and Johnny Murphy pitching.
As the AL starting lineup was being announced, a National League fan was heard yelling, "Hey, make McCarthy play an all-star American League team. We can beat them but we can't beat the Yankees." DiMaggio hit a solo home run in the fifth inning as the AL won, 3-1.
The AL again won, 3-1, in the 1942 All-Star game at the Polo Grounds in a game originally set to be held at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn. But the game was moved to the other NL park in New York City because the Polo Grounds held about 23,000 more people than Ebbets Field. MLB, which wanted to make as much money as possible, donated the profits to the Army and Navy Relief Funds that helped wounded vets from World War II.
Ebbets Field finally got the All-Star game in 1949, a memorable occasion as it was the first of these Midsummer Classics to include black players. And it was fitting since Jackie Robinson, the first black MLB player, broke in with the Brooklyn Dodgers by playing his first game at Ebbets Field, April 15, 1947.
Robinson was the NL's second baseman in that 1949 All-Star game. Catcher Roy Campanella and pitcher Don Newcombe of the Dodgers were the other black members of that NL All-Star roster. Newcombe entered the game in the second inning to relieve Warren Spahn of the Boston Braves. The big Dodger right hander became the loser in his own home ball park when the AL won, 11-7.
Larry Doby, the Cleveland Indians' outfielder who became the first AL black player when he broke in to MLB, July 5, 1947, was the only AL black All-Star that day at Ebbets Field in 1949. But from then on, the long-time racism of MLB gave way as black players have rightfully taken part in every MLB All-Star game since then.
MLB decided wrongly in 1959 to stage two All-Star games each year during a three-day period. So a pair of All-Star games was played each year, 1959---1962. Mercifully, this idea ended after those four years. That is one reason why there have been 78 All-Star games from 1933 through 2007. That amounts to one each year, plus four during that two-a-year period, minus the one not held in 1945 because of WW II travel restrictions.
The second game in 1960 was another New York City All-Star game held at Yankee Stadium. This time there were seven Yankees on the AL roster, including Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford.
Ford, the Yankees' ace left hander started the game and was touched for three runs in the first three innings to become the loser as the NL won, 6-0. That happened two days after the NL beat the AL, 5-3, in the first 1960 All-Star game in Kansas City.
Four years later, when MLB got back to the sensible single All-Star game idea, Shea Stadium was the location for one of the best All-Star thrillers. It produced the last of three walk-off winning home runs hit thus far in All-Star game history.
Trailing, 4-3, going into the bottom of the ninth inning, the NL tied the game when Willie Mays walked and stole second base before Orlando Cepeda, also of the Giants, singled Willie home. Following two outs, Ron Hunt, the host New York Mets' second baseman, walked and Johnny Callison, a Philadelphia Phillies outfielder, hit the winning 3-run home run off the Boston Red Sox' pitcher, Dick Radatz.
Ted Williams hit a 3-run, walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth in Detroit's Briggs Stadium off the Chicago Cubs' Claude Passeau to give the AL a 7-5 victory in 1941. Stan Musial hit a solo home run on the first pitch from the Boston Red Sox' Frank Sullivan in the bottom of the 12th inning for a 6-5 NL triumph at Milwaukee's County Stadium in 1955.
The 1977 All-Star game at Yankee Stadium was the most recent of the seven New York City MLB Midsummer Classics. It came midway through the longest All-Star game winning streak by either league. The NL hit the Baltimore Orioles' ace, Jim Palmer, for four runs in the first inning and easily won, 7-5, for the sixth NL victory in a row during a streak that continued to 11 straight triumphs for the senior circuit.
The AL is currently on a 10-game victory string. However this has come during 11 years because of that ridiculous 7-7 tie in the 2002 All-Star game at Milwaukee when both teams ran out of pitchers. The managers, Joe Torre of the AL and Bob Brenly of the NL, agreed to call it all even after 11 innings when neither one could call on another hurler from the bullpen.
MLB faced a dilemma. What could it do to give meaning to this All-Star game so that managers would be more judicious in their use of all that great talent available? Up to this time, the annual All-Star game was a wonderful show of the best MLB talent extant playing to no purpose other than to show off and try to get one league or the other bragging rights for a year.
The result was that MLB decided that the championship team of the league that wins the All-Star game will be the home team in the World Series for the first two games and the last two games if six and seven WS games were necessary. Prior to this, the home team for games one, two, six and seven of a World Series were alternated each year.
In the five World Series since that 2002 All-Star tie, the AL champion has gained the initial home team advantage each year because the AL has won the All-Star game each year since 2002. But the AL champion has won only three of those World Series while losing two.
The way strange things are going in MLB this season, if the AL can win during the Yankee Stadium swan song season, maybe the Tampa Bay Rays whom Babe Ruth, Carl Hubbell, Lou Gehrig, Joe Cronin and Frankie Frisch never heard of, will host games one, two, six and seven of this year's World Series in Tropicana Park, one of the worst MLB arenas ever used since 1903 when the first World Series was held.
Gordon White served 43 years as a sports reporter for The New York Times. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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